Even if you’re not into walking, you really don’t want to miss this experience.
Whether you’re a couch potato, are moderately fit or a fitness addict, or have got only R50 in your pocket, you can enjoy one of South Africa’s (many say the world’s) most beautiful trails.
Just 8km from plush Plettenberg Bay, with its up-market holiday homes and glitzy hotels, you’ll find the Robberg Nature Reserve and Marine Protected Area – a World Heritage Site and a national monument.
Get your map from the information kiosk at the entrance and decide which trail you’re going to hike. There are three circular trails – 2km, 5km and 9km.
The 2km trail to The Gap (about an hour) is classified as “easy”, but you need to be steady on your pins because although there are a number of stretches of boardwalk you’ll also be clambering up- and downhill on narrow tracks over rocks and small boulders bordered by fragrant fynbos.
And there are no handrails. The whole family can do this route, from energetic three-year-olds to grannies and grandpas who are walking fit. There are benches along the way where you can have a breather and take in the spectacular views.
The 5km trail to The Island (three hours) is also family-friendly if you’re reasonably fit. Climb down to the golden beaches for a picnic, paddling or swim if it’s a good day. Kids love it, especially sliding down the sand dunes.
The round trip of 9km (four to five hours) round the peninsula to The Point is strenuous – particularly over the sand dunes – but worth every minute.
Wear comfortable walking shoes (no-flip-flops or sandals), arm yourself with plenty of water (there are no fountains or taps on the trail) and either a picnic or some energy snacks.
Don’t forget sunscreen and a hat, and take a light jacket because Plett weather can be very unpredictable.
Don’t be tempted to take short cuts and if the weather does get bad turn back.
What will you see?
Expect dramatic views of Plettenberg Bay with the Tsitsikamma Mountains in the distance on all the routes. Orange-coloured rocks as big as buildings, some dating back over 100 million years, tower over you.
Rare botanical plants and flowers flourish everywhere. Stop and take deep breaths of the pure clear air and smell the subtle fragrance of the Cape’s unique fynbos as kelp gulls keep up a squawking backing track.
On the longer routes listen for the barks of the Cape fur seals, although you’ll smell the colony long before you get there. Keep your eyes open for whales – Bryde’s whales are here all year long, as are dolphins and sharks.
Between May and September spot the southern right whales that come to mate and calve.
Birds hop about the bushes, dassies and technicoloured lizards sun themselves on top of rocks, while the turquoise Indian Ocean foams and fizzes below you.
If you want to know more about our early history, climb down to Nelson Bay Cave where our ancestors lived over 120 000 years ago. The interpretation boards there will give you the facts.
If you’re into fishing, take your surf and angling rods but be sure to get a permit from the Post Office beforehand.
Early in the day is best. In summer the hike gets pretty crowded later, as does the small parking lot. If you only plan to walk the short trail then a 4pm start is okay.
Don’t walk for walking’s sake (you’ll be missing a memorable experience).
Get out your picnic, drinks and binoculars, and settle yourself at the tables and benches at the entrance, with great views overlooking the sea where there are also braai facilities.
- Turkington was a guest at Sky Villa Boutique Hotel in Plettenberg Bay.It has 360° views over the mountains and the sea